Which is Best? Dungeons and Dragons vs Magic the Gathering

Both Dungeons and Dragons and Magic the Gathering are two of the most popular fantasy games in existence today, but which one is better?

I’m going to be comparing these two games on a number of different levels.  Some things to keep in mind is what do you want out of a game, as the games differ in many different aspects such as:

  • Gameplay mechanics
  • Storyline
  • Community
  • Cost
  • Game length

The Short Answer To Dungeons & Dragons vs Magic the Gathering

The two are quite different games with very different game mechanics, so if you want my really short answer to the question of “Should I play Dungeons and Dragons or Magic the Gathering” here it is:

Play Dungeons and Dragons if you want to cooperatively play through stories, quests and dungeon crawling set in a fantasy world with a group of friends.

Play Magic the Gathering if you want to play a collectible card game that pitches you against another person to fight with your monsters and spells against theirs.

What Is Dungeons & Dragons

Dungeons and Dragons is a cooperative game set in a fantasy setting where you create characters, and roleplay through a story together.  The characters are your usual fantasy races such as elves and dwarves.  Each character is also a class that gives them different abilities, such as fighter, paladin, wizard or rogue to name a few. 

The story is guided by the dungeon master, so one person does not play the game but rather narrates it, assigning quests to the players and explaining what happens when they take actions. In general, quests often involve dungeon crawling (hence the name), in which players go through a dungeon and use weapons and spells to fight monsters in order to achieve a goal, such as defeating a bad guy, rescuing someone, or retrieving an item.

Playing a dungeons and dragons game takes approximately 2-4 hours per session, and is usually run over many sessions to create a whole campaign (think of each game like an episode in a series and the campaign is the whole series) so the same players usually play together for months or even years.

What Is Magic The Gathering

Magic the Gathering is a collectible card game where each player takes control of a unique character called a Planeswalker (which is a type of Wizard). Each planeswalker has its own deck of cards representing things such as lands, spells, and creatures. Each planeswalker generally specialises in a type of mana colour out of red, green, blue, white and black, which dictates what types of monsters or spells they can summon.

Each player in Magic the Gathering has a deck of cards, which they draw a playing hand of 7 cards from that they can then put down on the table to battle the other player a reduce their health (generally tracked on 20 sided dice).  As a beginner, many players buy a starter deck, but as you progress a big strategic part of playing MtG comes in putting a good deck together.

And this is where the collectible part of Magic the Gathering comes in, cards are usually collected through booster packs, which are packs of random cards that you buy in the hopes of getting some good cards (if you’ve ever played pokemon or yu-gi-oh this will be familiar to you).  In competitive tournaments, they limit players to using newer cards, which means to play competitively you need to keep up with the latest cards, which is why people often say this game is very expensive.

Why Play Dungeons And Dragons

There are quite a few reasons why someone would choose to play Dungeons & Dragons over Magic the Gathering, the core reasons being that you are playing together with friends, and there’s a lot more room for imagination and role-playing.

Here are a few more key reasons to choose Dungeons and Dragons:

  • A lot cheaper than MtG, as you buy the core rulebooks and can play with relatively little gear
  • Cooperative fun with friends
  • Extends the imagination telling stories and role-playing together
  • Much more of a commitment, long games (2-4 hours) and typically play over multiple games to create a longer campaign

Why Play Magic The Gathering

There are quite a few reasons someone would choose to play Magic the Gathering over Dungeons and Dragons.  The main ones being it’s quick, fast and competitive, while still being strategic and deep.

Here are some of the main reasons to choose to play MtG:

  • A lot more tactical and strategic than playing D&D
  • A competitive fighting game that you play against other people
  • Has a popular competitive gaming scene
  • Quick game (about 20-30 minutes) as opposed to D&D’s hours of play
  • No dungeon master required
  • You can easily find games and play online using MtG Arena

Dungeons And Dragons vs Magic The Gathering

Both D&D and MtG are great games, that are really quite different to play.  For comparison, here are some of the major differences:

  • Gameplay mechanics – Dungeons & Dragons is a cooperative roleplaying game that feels like playing through an RPG with your friends, while Magic the Gathering is a collectible card game where you are drafting a hand of cards to battle against friends.
  • Storyline – D&D has a storyline to the game, Magic the Gathering is a tactical combat game where each game doesn’t really have a storyline.
  • The number of players – D&D optimally should have 4 players plus a dungeon master (though you can play with more or less), while MtG only needs 2 players and doesn’t require someone to take on the role of the dungeon master.
  • Game length – MtG is a short game, with a game generally taking about 30 minutes to play, while D&D is a lot longer requiring 2-4 hours to play, and a regular time commitment to play in a regular campaign.
  • Commitment – both these games require commitment, for D&D there’s a lot of preparation required by the Dungeon Master, and time from the players.  In MtG there is a lot of commitment in learning the game and strategies and keeping up with the new cards that are released.
  • Community – both games have huge communities, you will regularly find MtG tournaments held weekly in a lot of gaming stores, as well as many D&D games being run both in gaming stores and in private groups at home.
  • Cost – both can be done cheap or expensive, but D&D is probably cheaper overall.  D&D can be practically run for free or using a cheap starter set, but you can also really get quite expensive with lots of miniatures and 3D terrain.  Magic the Gathering can be played casually with starter kits that are a pre-constructed deck of cards, but if you want to be competitive you are going to have to keep purchasing new cards which can get quite expensive.

Conclusion

Both games are published by Wizards of the Coast and are great games in their own right. They’re very different games though, so the one that will be appropriate for you is really dependent on what you are looking for out of a game.

If you are looking for something that is role-playing fun with friends, and you have a regular group that can make a regular time commitment, then Dungeons & Dragons is a great option for you.

On the other hand, if you like games that require competitive strategic thinking, and want something you can go play when you have the time against whoever is available, then Magic the Gathering may be more suitable.

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